Friday, November 5, 2010

APPAM Panel: Interest Groups

Scott and Gitterman (UNC) -- Lobbyists and Medicare -- A network analysis of connections between lobbyists and between interest groups. Interest groups have become more connected (same lobbyists) since 1999. Used to be 30% of interest groups were connected, now 50%. Lobbyists differ in how long and how intensely they are engaged - hospitals and AMA engaged for the long haul while others only intervene when particular policies are up for debate. There are really about 10-20 law and lobby firms that are consistently active.

Discussant: The measure is based on only registered lobbyists, but registration is a choice. When Congress makes noises about the importance of registration, numbers go up (as they did in 2003 and 07). 

Derthick (Virginia) -- Tobacco lobbying -- Started out bipartisan until 1990s. Republicans taking over in the south meant Democrats were free to oppose tobacco. The 15 years between 94 and 09 were spent on an adversarial court battle with tobacco that wore down Philip Morris. Once Morris was ready to deal with Congress, could turn to a Congressional rather than courts solution.

Discussant: Why have we focused so much on court systems? Patients bill of rights that can be enforced in courts rather than regulation of the industry. Same with tobacco and managed care.

A: Because the most anti-tobacconists wanted heads of companies to be declared criminals. They wanted to do to tobacco what had been done to asbestos.

Jochim (Washington) -- When politics become more partisan, a lot of costs go up (costs to come to agreement raise, costs of research, cognitive costs for going against ideology). Less partisan issues have smaller, incremental policy changes while very partisan issues only move less often by leaps.

Discussant: What does polarized politics mean? In 60s, the polarization was within the Democratic party between northern liberals and the south. Now it looks like Dem/Rep. There is a really difficult causality story: does partisanship make issues volatile, or are volatile issues more likely to become partisan? Hard to convince. It's not parties on the one hand and interest groups on the other. They are the same people! Lobbyists become politicians, party figures, or department appointments and vice versa. Michael Steele, RNC chair, is a banking lobbyist.

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